Tag Archives: attitude

Why are Target Archers Served So Poorly?

In 2012 the Archery Trade Association (ATA) sponsored a landmark survey of archery participation in the U.S. People in all 50 states, thousands of them, were surveyed via telephone as to archery and their participation in the sport. Last year they repeated the survey, somewhat expanded, and discovered a quite large increase in participation, which is probably no surprise to archery coaches. The new survey estimates the total number of adult archers in the U.S. at 21.6 million adults (plus uncounted scads of youths!).

The ATA for quite some time has been little more than a bowhunting marketing organization, so it is not surprising to see the report pull out a bullet point that “A little more than half of all (adult) archery participants in the U.S. (55%) bow hunt.” (p8) They got that result by summing the segments labeled “Bowhunting but not target archery” and “Target archery and bow hunting.” They did not, however, pull out a bullet point that could have said “More than three quarters of all adult archery participants in the U.S. (81%) participate in target archery.” I got that by summing the “Target archery and bow hunting” segment and the “Target archery but not bowhunting” segment. Possibly saying that there are more adult archers participating in target archery than bowhunting doesn’t fit their usual narrative. When you add in the fact that it is highly likely that the millions of youths participating in archery are way more likely to be target archers than anything else, the size of the “target archery market” is substantially bigger than the size of the “bowhunting market” when you consider just archery equipment (bows, arrows, sights, etc.)

The size of the ‘target archery market’ is substantially bigger than the size of the ‘bowhunting market’ when you consider just archery equipment (bows, arrows, sights, etc.)”

Way more than a few archery manufacturers sneer at target archery as the unprofitable weak sister of bow hunting. This is regrettable because when you look at look at the prices for target gear and compare them with hunting gear, the target gear tends to be more expensive, which means if you are selling to a dedicated target archer, vs. a dedicate bow hunter, you are looking at greater sales, not less. My estimation is that target archers spend more on archery equipment than do bowhunters. Bowhunters spend a lot more on their “bowhunting” but much of that is on ATVs, tree stands, travel, lodging, deer tags, licenses, camping gear, camo clothing, tracking cameras, etc. etc. things that manufacturers of bows and arrows do not make.

So, why the negative attitude toward target archers? If you look at sales of target equipment, they pale in comparison to the hunting gear. Why is this? There are more target archers than bow hunters. They are willing to spend more on archery equipment. So, why are sales so poor?

Could it be that target archers can’t find things to buy? Even in archery “pro shops” it is often the case that target equipment is either not to be found or very, very limited in scope. Those same shops also do not seem to have target archery specialists to help with buying decisions.

So, now that the Archery Trade Association has shown … twice … that the number of target archers is very, very much larger than anyone thought, where are the programs and outlets to market goods to target archers? Why aren’t the bow and arrow manufacturers pressuring the ATA to expand marketing to this previously unnoticed huge market? Is it because a manufacturer of broadheads, used only by hunters, have as much clout as an arrow manufacturer? Why are target archers not served better than they are? Why?

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Helping Shape Archery Attitudes

Note If you are serious about coaching archery, please go to http://www.archerycoachesguild.org and consider joining The Archery Coaches Guild. We are days away from a formal launch of the website, but most of it is already there. We are creating a space in which coaches can interact with other coaches to help solve problems and grow as coaches. Come join us.  Steve

Helping Shape Archery Attitudes

If you have been coaching for some length of time it is almost guaranteed that you have encountered student-archers who had “bad attitudes.” Since your standing with those archers is not very high, there doesn’t seem that there is much you do to shape better attitudes. Let’s talk about this.

It probably is not helpful to tell your charge “you’ve got an attitude,” for that is shorthand for “you’ve got a bad attitude,” and it may not hit home. It may rather say “I don’t like you” and the response may be dislike in return.

Just so we are talking about the same thing, the “attitude” we are talking about here is “a mental position with regard to a fact or state; for example a helpful attitude, meaning a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state.” If that doesn’t help, we are talking about “how” people achieve their goals. Maybe their goal is they just want to shoot a good score or a score good enough to win a local competition. Important questions regarding achieving those goals are: what is their opinion regarding, say, “practice” with regard to achieving their goal? What about “talent?”

Is your student someone who people say is “talented” when it comes to archery? If so, do they believe those claims? And what does that mean to them? There is a trap in believing you have a “talent for archery” (we recommend that they don’t believe that as there seems to be no basis in fact for such a thing) and that trap is the fact that a talent is . . . what? Is it anything they can do anything with? Or is it just what it is, something fixed in them that they have no control over? If they believe the latter, studies have shown that people who believe they have an innate talent in them are often afraid to challenge themselves because if they fail, what does that mean about their “talent?” Did they run out of talent? Did it fail them? These are pretty scary situations because they mean something about, well, them. And they have no idea whatsoever what their talent is.

You can also easily see backhanded criticism of professional athletes, by endowing them with “natural talent” (“he has prodigious gifts” or “he is a huge talent”) as a way of saying “it is not him, it is a gift he was given; he didn’t earn it, it was a gift”). This statement ignores the amount of hard work needed to acquire any skill, implying they just naturally knew how to do those things instead of earning them through hard work. Conversely other athletes are described as “hard working” and “the first to come to practice and the last to leave,” implying that they “earned” their skills and weren’t just gifted them.

Some interesting studies about talent addressed student’s attitudes toward learning math. It seems to be true that everyone can learn math and that some learn it more easily than others. But many young people experience the following when they first begin to struggle: a parent or other adult says something like “That’s okay, kiddo, I didn’t have a talent for math, either.” This seemingly consoling statement is, presumably, meant to relieve the young student’s anxiety. Basically, they are saying “it is not your fault, it is because of nature or something (genetics); some people just don’t have what it takes to learn math.”

The problem with this “attitude” is that it offloads responsibility for performance onto something that probably does not exist. In other cultures, when a student struggles the parent/other adult reassures them by saying “you will just have to work harder, but I know you will succeed; you can do it.” Which of these two attitudes is more likely to result in a better outcome, do you think? And shouldn’t the same be true for archers?

Does practice help?

“Gee, I go to archery practice every week, I wonder why the others are getting better and I am not. Maybe I need better equipment.” We hear this from too many young archers. Just showing up is not “practice.” Showing up is a requirement for practice to occur, a minimal requirement. If they don’t show up when a range is made available for them to shoot on and you are also available to coach them, it will be much harder to get better. But there is no guarantee that if they do show up, things will get better, either. Practice, rather, is what you do to get better. If they are not getting better, then they are not really getting any practice, or certainly not any effective practice.

To become better, they must do things that make their scores better. If they adopt the attitude that “practice is what you do to get better,” and you have the goal of getting better, then there are some consequences. First they have to have some indicator of what “getting better” means. If they have a fair number of competitions where they are, they might be able to use their competition scores. If not, they might use scores on practice rounds. Whatever they choose to indicate their progress, they will have to keep track of those numbers. (Having a notebook and using it well is an absolute necessity for serious archers.)

You, as coach, can be helpful in determining things they can do to get better. But you can only make suggestions; we do not recommend making demands. Practice is not just showing up, but showing up, doing things differently, and noting which things work better and which don’t. This is why it is strongly recommended that each archer keep a list of the things they are trying and always (Always!) read that list before they start shooting, otherwise they could easily fall back into their “old normal” shooting and lose any progress they might have been making. You can help, by recommending the list, asking if they have read it (over and over and over—hey, it is a repetition sport!). We even go so far as to give out small spiral bound notebooks that students can keep in their quivers.

Coaches can also provide drills, with each drill described and a plan made, for example: “do this for two weeks and then we’ll check to see if you are better.” This drill then becomes a part of what they do when they attend your lessons (and hopefully if they are able to practice between lessons). Whether that drill is kept in their practice routine depends on whether it makes them better. You have the capacity to show them how those tests are made and whether or not their work is being directed correctly.

Don’t confuse an unwillingness to do the drills you recommend as a sign of a bad attitude, it may be a sign of a recreational archer. If the program they are in is only for serious competitive archers, then maybe they are in the wrong program. Shooting for fun is not a mistake, it is what the vast majority of archers do and drills aren’t fun. And recreational archers tend not to do things that are not fun (drills fall into this category).

Attitude is an important factor in archery. Successful archers tend to have an attitude directing them to work harder and smarter, from which they get better. They are willing to let their performance dictate what they should be doing in “practice.” They don’t worry that they are running out of talent, because there is no such thing. Coaches can help shape these attitudes by recognizing the differences between “recreational” and “competitive” archers (AER terms) and making suggestions accordingly.

The first rule of getting out of a hole you dug yourself is to stop digging.
Anonymous

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I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Advice

QandA logoThis is a question from a frustrated coach on a topic you may have some experience with.

Dear Coach Ruis,
In the past, I’ve dealt with students who wouldn’t follow all of my advice. But now, I have a student who not only doesn’t follow even half of my advice, but also argues with me constantly. She always finds an excuse to not do what I want her to do, even if I am able to prove her ideas wrong. How do I deal with students like her?
Thanks

* * *

It is the teacher’s role to teach … and the student’s role to learn.

And, since this is a voluntary arrangement, I would simply not spend any more time with her. You are providing a service, if someone doesn’t want what you are providing, you don’t help by irritating them by insisting upon it.

At a deeper level, my coaching philosophy involves helping all archers to become independent, to be able to take or leave coaching as they see fit. I can’t do that by taking away their autonomy, by telling them they must do as I say or I will take my marbles and go home.

I suggest you respect your student’s right to ignore you. The flip side is I certainly do not want to spend time with people who ignore my advice and/or cherry pick my advice, distorting it into something it is not. If I must continue to work with such people, I tend to get more formal and less casual and instead of making statements, I ask questions. If they are insisting on doing everything their way, I honor that by making them do it. I can help by asking questions that lead them to think, but I cannot do their thinking for them.

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We Have to Stop Saying Stupid Things

I just finished reading a column in the January 7, 2015 New York Times: “Years of Repetition Help Sharpshooter Equal a Record”

The subtitle was “Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of UConn Took Aim at Record for 3-Pointers;” here are a few quotes:

By the time Mosqueda-Lewis reached seventh grade, Ali (her father) was waking her at 5 a.m. to take her to a 24-hour fitness center in her hometown, Anaheim Hills, Calif., so she could shoot as much as possible before school. The exhausting goal was 500 shots per day. If that meant returning to the gym once her homework was done, so be it. Ali never tired of running down rebounds and snapping off passes, and the two of them delighted in a bond that grew ever stronger.

There have been very few players who shoot the ball the way Kaleena does,” Coach Geno Auriemma said. “It’s God-given, and she’s worked hard at it.

“Argh! God-given talent my ass!”

Argh! God-given talent my ass!

Coaches have to stop saying stupid things like this. This young lady has the correct mindset for an athlete, which is “if I practice hard, I will get better.” There is no such thing as “God-given talents” and the consequences of believing you had one is … what? Why should you work hard if the talent came to you magically? Why should you risk high levels of competition as it may put all of my praise at risk?

The right mindset for an athlete is one in which they equate hard work on their game with progress. In no other way will they get better. Praying certainly won’t do it. Asking God for another soupcon of talent won’t do it. Why not ask God to make you taller (or quicker or faster), that would really help a basketball player.

Coaches need to praise athletes for their hard work and dedication, which fuels even more hard work and dedication, not some mumbo-jumbo about “God-given talent.” How in heck would Coach Auriemma recognize a “God-given talent” in any case? Where did he get the talent for that? When did he receive his coach training in recognizing talents? What is a talent for basketball or for archery, exactly?

Stop with the stupid, please!

 

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Why Don’t Some Students Listen?

QandA logoOne of my favorite coach trainees sent in the following concern (he is currently coaching a college archery team):

“A common problem I’m noticing is that 75% of my students don’t seem to take archery seriously. For example, half of my students don’t come to practice regularly. For those that do come to practice, if I tell someone to do X, they will do it and say they understand it. But then on the following week, they’ve completely forgotten to continue doing X, or they have restarted making the mistake that I taught them to prevent. Others say ‘Well I know you told me to do this, but I just don’t feel like doing it.’”

“Is this normal with teaching? I have expectations that aren’t being met because people don’t regularly come to practice or follow instruction.”

To which I responded: Often our mental construct of coaching is from having observed highly competitive sports in which team members come close to killing themselves to “make the team” and then work their asses off just to stay on it, let alone play much. (I was an archetype for this kind of athlete.)

Actually, your students exemplify the current state of education as a whole, not just archery. So many students have gotten adequate grades/moderate success without any struggle that they have become very dilettantish (not their fault, but their problem).

Because of this we distinguish two groups of archery students: Recreational and Competitive. Our definitions (just ours) are Recreational Archers are in it for social reasons; they are characterized as not doing anything that is not fun. Competitive Archers are training to learn how to win/become better. They are characterized as those who practice and who will do dull drills to get better. Both types can be seen at any archery competition, so “attending a competition” is not a criterion either way.

Add to this scheme the proverb that “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

I preserve my sanity through the following rule: I will work for a student only as hard as they work for themselves.

So, recognize that some team members are there only for the fun of flinging arrows and for socializing with other team members and some are there to get better. I spend the bulk of my time with the latter, but don’t neglect the others because you do not know whether or when the “switch will flip” and they become Competitive Archers. The usual scenario for youngsters is they are encouraged to attend (or dragged to) a competition and they do surprisingly well. Then they have the thought, “If I tried harder I think I could get good at this” or “win” or some such.

You might want to try to arrange a “dual meet” competition with another archery club as an introduction to competition. You might flip some of your team’s switches.

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Working with Adult Beginners

Claude and StudentAn interesting thing happened about a year and a half ago. The Chicago Archery Center put out a Groupon offer for a set of four archery lessons at their center. A whopping 1400 people bought a Groupon! But that’s not the most fascinating thing; that was that the vast majority of those purchasers of archery lessons were young . . . adults. As you are aware, archery is undergoing one of its typical growth spurts, probably fueled by popular movies, like Brave, The Avengers, and The Hunger Games and by television shows like Arrow. Many of these archery newbies are adults. Working with adults is different from working with kids. Let’s explore this.

Are Adult Beginners Different?
We teach all beginners in much the same way but we see three different groups, each of which have to be addressed at least somewhat differently: pre-pubescent youths, post-pubescent youths, and adults. Pre-pubescent youths do not have much muscular development, so the lightest weight equipment is used and “fun” is emphasized over everything but safety. These are pre-teens who usually looking at archery for recreation and not as a competitive sport (but there are exceptions, of course). Post-pubescent youths have more muscular bodies but are often growing rapidly, so much attention must be paid to their equipment so that it fits them, especially if they are getting serious and purchasing their own equipment. Allowances for growth must be made especially in arrow selection. (We go over this in detail in our bowfitting seminar.) Adults, on the other hand, do not have growing up to deal with, but we still start them with lighter weight equipment because archery form, posture, etc. is best learned with as little stress as possible. Once proper posture and technique is learned, draw weight can be increased fairly rapidly, as long as it does not degrade an archer’s form and execution.

How We Treat Adults Differently
Adults have a number of traits archery coaches to be cognizant of; here are a few:

Adults Can Overpower Light Weight Equipment By “Light Weight” we mean bows with low draw weights. Adults can overpower the equipment trying to force it to do what they want rather than learning how to get the equipment to show them how it operates best. The first job in learning to shoot well is learning how to relax. Youths often don’t have the option of muscling their bows into a particular behavior, so they can often learn to relax quickly. Some adults struggle with this. Constant reinforcement regarding relaxation is needed.

Adults are Self-Conscious About Appearing Incompetent One of our coaches went to a family reunion and took some bows, arrows, and a target to teach the kids how to shoot. One particular young lady was shooting very well in short order and this was pointed out to her parents and grandparents. When Dad and Granddad were coaxed into giving it a try within two arrows they were competing with one another and their quite young daughter/granddaughter to see who could score better! (Of course, scoring was not being emphasized.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs adults we want to appear to be at least competent and especially do not want to appear to be foolish. This is akin to teenagers wanting to look “cool” and it is as big a handicap. Our best recommendation is to encourage adults to channel their “inner child” (ask them to revert to being a 12-year old again) and just enjoy what they are doing. Encourage them to avoid thinking about how they might look to bystanders. (Most of the bystanders are other beginning archers in any case.)

Adults Control Their Own Money No parent wants some archery coach getting their kid jacked up about all of the expensive equipment they will need to progress in their sport. So, we make every effort to educate the parents and involve them whenever we make a recommendation regarding a purchase of any kind (organization dues, competition fees, equipment, etc.). With adults, you generally control your own purse-strings, so we talk to you directly.

It is perfectly acceptable for them to use your “program equipment,” as long as all they want to do is shoot arrows for fun. But once they address archery as an endeavor deeper than that, they need their own equipment. Usually the thought comes to them “if I did a little work at this I could get pretty good” or they get home and find that shooting arrows has made all of your “problems” disappear for a while. (Not only does it do that but their problems come back to them in the order of their importance, at least to their subconscious minds anyway.)

In order not to be limited in what they do, they need a bow of the right size, weight, and especially draw weight and draw length. The last two are the two pillars of archery performance and without them, not much can be done. Program equipment has all been chosen to be “enough:” that is long enough (arrows), light enough (in draw weight), light enough (in physical weight), but it can’t possibly be expected to fit every participant and it does not.

If they become interested in purchasing them own equipment, our guiding principle is that folks should buy equipment that matches their level of expertise. Experts should buy top-of-the line gear, intermediate archers should buy intermediate-level equipment and beginners need to buy beginning level equipment. This does not mean all beginners who want a compound bow need to get a Genesis, or other zero-letoff bow, a bow with letoff is good to have, but just not a really expensive one. Not only is the higher end equipment harder to afford, it is harder to use, that is it requires a higher level of expertise to use it to effect. If you want to become more expert in making equipment recommendations we teach a seminar for you in bow and arrow fitting and even if you haven’t taken the course, you may be able to recommend equipment to your adult students that will fit them and their recreation budgets, too. As always, limit yourself to your own competence. If you don’t know much about compound bows, tell your student that they will be better served going to a local shop. Do tell them that they are looking for “beginner level” equipment,” though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdults Often Want Explanations Kids are usually told they need to just do what adults tell them to, so often we give suggestions and they just go about trying. Adults, on the other hand, are used to making their own decisions. Consequently you will need to supply explanations if asked. We recommend you wait until asked for an explanation because our definition of boring is “an answer to a question you didn’t have.” Archery class is supposed to be fun.

We also insist that “the athlete is in charge” in that unless there is a safety violation involved, they pretty much get to do what they please (in the context of the class. Archery is an individual sport and we can’t promote your independent excellence as an archer but denying you the right to make your own choices. If a student insist on drawing his bow with a two finger grip on the strip, please do tell them that we recommend three fingers on the string (to avoid damage to the nerves in the fingers from the pressure of the string) but if they insist, it is their sport and they can do what they want.

So, we encourage adults to ask away . . . but they need to recognize that in a class setting you have many people to pay attention to and you may have to ask them to hold their questions while you attend to one of your other charges. You are not being rude; you are doing what we want you to do. Just monitoring the safety of all participants, our #1 goal, requires a great deal of your attention.

If they are taking pleasure from their excursion into archery, one of our staff has written a book for adult beginners: “Shooting Arrows: Archery for Adult Beginners.” Recommend it to those who want such a thing.

Shooting Arrows Cover v4 (small)

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Q&A Should Coaches Get Coached

An anonymous writer asked the question “whether coaches get coached?” It was asked in the spirit of should coaches get coached, so that is the question I choose to answer.

I can’t really answer the question with regard to whether coaches get coached. I suspect “not.” This is generally the case for most archers and not just coaches (possibly due to the small number of better coaches). Most archers, at best, get coaching from their fellow archers, that is suggestions from their friends about what to do, when.

With regard to the question “should coaches get coached,” the answer is a definitive “yes.” Every time I have the opportunity to get coached by a better coach, I try to avail myself of that opportunity. Last spring, I received a visit from Larry Wise of Pennsylvania, a world-class archery coach if there ever was one. I talked him into a lesson and a friend talked me (with Larry’s okay) into joining us. Now Larry received a fee (always expect to pay for lessons!) and received an added benefit in that my friend arranged two shooter’s clinics for Larry in the area. So, this is a form of “networking” by which coaches connect with people which can turn into more work for them, so many coaches are willing to do “one off” lessons for this reason.

I even agreed to a coaching session while attending the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas one year. The reason? The fellow contacted me about his inability to find a coach locally and I tried to help him find one but came up empty handed, so I agreed to give him a lesson, while at the Festival. More and more coaches will even give you remote lessons via video clips, Skype, whatever.

The bottom line here is that if you want to coach archers, you should be able to shoot at about their level. Beginning archery coaches should be able to shoot minimally as well as a beginning archer. Intermediate coaches should be able to shoot at the intermediate level. And if you want to coach expert archers, yes, you need to be at the expert level. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be at the top of any of those particular heaps, but at least you need to have experienced what you are asking your students to do.

Would you take golf lessons from a bad golfer? Tennis lessons from a poor tennis player? Some archery skill is definitely needed and good coaching accelerates the development of that skill.

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Q&A What to Do About Lousy Practices


An unidentified writer states “A recent practice session was going poorly and the harder I tried, the worse it got! What can I do?”

This is an excellent question from a reader apparently shy about being identified as someone who has had a poor practice session, like I never have. (I never have … honestly . . . and if you believe that I have some prime real estate in the Everglades I think you will be interested in!)

Okay, grasshopper, you missed the lesson entirely. Let me ask you: “What does it mean “to try harder”? Huh? Just what do you think “trying harder” consists of? How do you do it . . . as an archer? I think your best bet is to equate “trying harder” with “screwing up,” because in general that’s what you’ll get. When you make a rash of mistakes, you need to train yourself to relax and get back to your shot routine, not “try harder.”

If you do just that: relax and just let your shot happen, and things don’t get better, quit. Yes, I said quit. Quit shooting anyway. When this happens (not “if” but “when” because it will) and you try to relax into your shot and nothing seems to be working . . . do . . . not . . . try . . . to . . . force . . . things . . . to . . . happen! Nothing good will come from that. Maybe it is a good day to have a mental skills intensive, or heck, read a book (I have several for sale).

In archery you must trust your shot and let your training run your execution. If it is “not working,” forcing yourself to do “things” will only result in bad habits being burned into your subconscious mind (due to your intensity) which will cause you to have to do even more work just to get back where you were.

Relax and focus on your shot sequence. If that doesn’t work, do something else.

And, by the way, if this happens, you aren’t “there” yet. All of the top dogs seem to be able to pull it together when needed. This doesn’t mean they don’t have days that are a little better or worse than their norm, they just don’t lose their shot like this. So, if this happens to you, there is more work to be done on your shot. You don’t fully own it yet.

Hope this helped!

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Q&A How Do I Keep Them Motivated?


Kim Hannah
of Chicago emailed: “When kids really enjoy shooting (and shooting for their harder JOAD pins), how do you keep them motivated when they are frustrated about not getting better and not getting their next pin?”

Since I am somewhat long of tooth, it took me a while to adjust to the environment today’s youths find themselves in. It started when we put on a clinic for the Air Force and kids asked whether after the clinic they would get to keep the bows. Now, that would never have happened when I was growing up. Today kids get trophies, big ones, for coming in last in their hockey or baseball league, so I realize times have changed.

But I don’t think kids have changed all that much.

My suggestion is to involve them in the process of getting better. The expression of wanting to get better, or get better faster, even in the form of frustration is a teaching moment. But, if they are unwilling to do anything that is not fun, then they are still a recreational archer and you can’t ask them to do boring drills. If they have a real fire in their belly about getting better, and they are willing to do some things that aren’t fun, a whole additional bunch of activities/drills come into play. You need to assess this to know which situation you are in. In either case, you can introduce them to a shot sequence, for example.

Here is one idea: if you have enough coaches to take this archer to the side for a few minutes try having them shoot with their eyes closed. Put a target up close (a big target). Have them draw and settle and then close their eyes. You then count to three and they can shoot anytime after they hear “three.” After several arrows to get the hang of it, if they are shooting off to the right, have them reposition their stance a bit to the left. If they are shooting off to the left, have them reposition their stance a bit to the right. (Fighting your stance is a major source of inconsistency.) Whatever they are doing, what you have just done is remove “aiming” (whatever that means to your student) from their shot. Many students shoot amazingly well with their eyes closed! In any case, you have things to talk about with your young (or not so young) archer, especially the role aiming plays in shooting well (a smallish part, to be sure).

How about it all of you coaches out there—do you have anything to contribute on this topic? Comment on this blog post and I will post your comments.

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All Coaches Have Opinions (Yes, We Do!)

I was reading a guide to teaching Olympic-style archery I found on the Internet. In rather large bold letters right on the first page it said: “There is a perfectly good reason why the use of a clicker is mentioned here and again later in the text, the standard concept of leaving its use until some point further into the learning process is rubbish.” The point a clicker was to be taught was apparently the third session (lesson).

The reason this stood out for me is I had just finished some work on an Olympic-style archery curriculum and the clicker was being introduced quite late. Still, the opinion of the Internet author was so vehement, I spent some time to reconsider my position.

“Their” Opinion
Later in this quite short document the authors claim:  It is important to get the novice using a clicker as soon as possible so that their style will improve and they are not “hung up” about using this important and very necessary piece of equipment. Apparently this is an indication the authors are aware that clickers do not find favor with beginning archers and they have found an approach that works. They also seem to claim that by using a clicker, the archer’s “style” will improve. The authors are British and I am going to guess that by “style” they mean the same thing we do by “form.”

I have never seen an archer’s form improve by the introduction of a clicker. In fact, it seems as if it always gets worse at first, and quite a few don’t recover. As to how to introduce the clicker they say: If a consistent draw is being achieved set the clicker a couple off mm in front of where the arrow is at full draw. Explain that this is a draw check and all that is required is to draw the bow until the clicker goes off and then loose. At this stage there is no need for anymore explanation than that and it is important to let the archer practise using the clicker without attention to how it is being used. Fine adjustment of clicker position and execution can only be learnt when they have experience of using it.

The problem I see with this is not the approach that is used here, it is the “If a consistent draw is being achieved . . .” requirement. This is correct, but for this to happen in a student’s third lesson must constitute some kind of miracle.

“My”Opinion
In my opinion I believe that clickers have a bad reputation for two very good reasons: 1) they are introduced before an archer’s draw length becomes fairly consistent, and 2) they are taught poorly.

When to Introduce a Clicker If an archer has otherwise good form (a requirement), introducing the clicker is dependent upon the consistency of his draw length. Here is why. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say an archer’s draw length varies between two values an inch apart. If you set the clicker for the middle of this range and then one eighth of an inch closer to the bow for safety, then when he draws on the 5/8 of an inch side of that one inch range farthest from the bow, the clicker stays on the point, which is good. But when he draws on the 3/8 of an inch side closest to the bow, the clicker falls off before he is ready. So, approximately three shots are pulled through the clicker before anchor is achieved for every five that are not. This is frustrating for the archer and has the potential of causing a disaster in the form of the archer trying to consciously control his draw length. This is not something we want him to do.

Now consider that your archer has a quite consistent draw length, gotten by focusing on body position and tenseness of back muscles, etc. and his draw length varies between two values only a quarter of an inch apart. If you set the clicker for the middle of this range and then one eight of an inch closer to the bow for safety, the clicker stays on the point almost every time (with only a little more draw necessary to finish the shot.

Because the archer only pulls through the clicker rarely, he gets to draw the bow as he has always done, which reinforces that subconscious movement. He gets to practice using the clicker every shot rather than five times out of eight.

Now I made up the “one inch” and “one quarter inch” draw length ranges, but the point is clear: the smaller the variation in draw length before the clicker is introduced, the less likely the archer will feel the clicker is an impediment and the more likely he will pick it up sooner.

The phrase “If a consistent draw is being achieved . . . ” is key but I do not expect anything like the consistency necessary by the third or even the thirteenth lesson necessarily. Let me put it this way, if you put a clicker on a student’s bow and they experience frustration, take it off. It is too soon. How to Introduce a Clicker I have heard how the clicker is introduced to Korean student-archers, I have read how a number of others have done it. And I have read the above “At this stage there is no need for anymore explanation than that and it is important to let the archer practise using the clicker without attention to how it is being used. Fine adjustment of clicker position and execution can only be learnt when they have experience of using it.” I find none of them sufficient. So, here is what I am recommending (these are the student instructions):

How to Shoot a Clicker
Start by stripping sight and stabilizer(s) off of your bow and step up to an empty target butt. Your coach will be directing you and this is how it will go. You will slide an arrow under the clicker and your coach will ask you to draw the arrow while you watch the clicker. Your goal is to get to a comfortable full draw position with the clicker still on the arrow but quite near its falling off point. Adjustments will probably have to be made.

After any adjustments to the clicker’s position, you will draw to full draw (watching the clicker) and then “finish the shot” by extending to the target with your bow arm and rotating your rear shoulder toward your back. When the clicker “clicks,” you will be doing one of several things (as directed by your coach):
• letting down
• shooting, or
• pausing for 1-3 seconds and shooting.
Your coach will tell you which to do each time. When you first start, at least every other shot will be a “let down.” Drawing through the clicker and letting down is also called a “clicker check” as you can check whether your back and shoulders feel they are in the right positions at that point. This is something you will want to do every time you warm up to shoot and then later interspersed with your warm-up shots.

What is being done is your subconscious mind is being trained to assess the status of your shot at the point in time that your clicker clicks and then either a) finishing the shot (if everything is good) or b) letting down (if anything is not good). Your subconscious mind can do this with lightning speed; your conscious mind would take several minutes to do the same thing! What you do not want is what is called a conditioned reflex (a reflex that is trained). A “click–release” trained reflex will cause you a great many poor shots. What you want is “click–check and if okay–release.”

This training can be tedious, so it is okay to take a break and shoot without the clicker for a while.

Also, if you are still growing, the position of the clicker will need to be adjusted often. It also needs to be adjusted often if your form isn’t fairly solid which is why we have waited until now to teach you the clicker.

The instructions for the coach are to train the student on the clicker for short sessions spread out over two or three lessons. Gradually the number of “let downs” is reduced and the number of “count to two (or one or three) before shooting” are reduced until the instruction becomes “shoot if the shot feels right.” On the second or third session the stabilizer, sight, and target can be reintroduced (target last). The student is to not use the clicker unless he is with the coach until the coach gives the “okay.” Then the student must shoot it continually thereafter. The objective is to integrate the clicker without distorting form which is already good. All the clicker can do is tell you whether the arrow has been pulled far enough through the clicker, it cannot tell you if it has been done properly, consequently it cannot help you learn good form; all it can do is make your draw length even more consistent.

Can Anything Be Concluded?
Both of the above techniques are still just opinions. Can both work? Is one better? Is one right and the other wrong?

I strongly feel that archery can be taught well in quite a few ways. I strongly encourage coaches and archers to share their methods . . . and their opinions . . . and their justifications of their opinions, because there may just be some superior ways to do things.

But while we are sharing, I feel that one’s opinions of other’s techniques need to be factual and not visceral, “. . . the standard concept of leaving its use until some point further into the learning process is rubbish.”

Good coaching is positive, good coaching focuses on the solution and not the problem. Good writing on coaching should do the same.

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